February 4, 2020

Natural Selection

Forward-thinking kitchen and bath designers, especially in the luxury market, are raising the creative bar with natural elements by injecting color and pattern, unique surface treatments, as well as an array of interesting textures and finishes. NKBA asked four certified designers for some direction about doing what comes naturally. 

KNOCK ON WOOD “Oak is back, in a big way,” says Peter Salerno, CMKBD. “We’re using sawn oak, with ceruse finishes and different glazes. The number-one wood we’re using is white oak, followed by alder—a softer wood that can be stained easily, and doesn’t have a color seeping through, like a pink from a cherry wood.”

Designer Credit: Lana Zepponi-Myers, AKBD, Kitchens Unlimited.

“Neutral wood and stone biophilic tones are very popular,” notes Toni Sabatino, AKBD. “Tones found in nature—neutral natural sand, sea and forest colors—create a calm, timeless vibe.”

CLEANSE THE PALETTE “I steer my clients to soft taupes as an alternative dominant color [to white],” says Kelly Morisseau, CMKBD. “Clients are open to being introduced to texture easier than bold colors. 3-D and textured patterns for wood and tile have been growing in popularity. Trending colors for me: blues; matte bronzes; rich, dark colors from Europe, like dark browns. In grays, we see concrete tones.”

Designer Credit: Sarah Robertson, AKBD, Studio Dearborn.

“Gray elements are still a trend but they’ve been over-used,” says Rebecca Flynn, CMKBD. “Painted cabinetry, pink, dark green and lavender can be fun accents. Steel blue is popular. A white kitchen gives us an opportunity to have fun with the tile design; this becomes the focal point.” 

LEATHER AND LACE “We’re moving away from shiny surfaces,” says Salerno. “People like a tactile surface, and a leather surface wears well and hides a lot. We recently used a lacewood for cabinets in a kitchen, and for the island’s countertop, we sandwiched a shiny, silver lacy textile from Italy between two pieces of glass. We’re sandwiching beautiful fabrics in glass on vertical surfaces, too.”

Flynn concurs, “Walnut island countertops may be classic, but quartzite is trending. That’s the way to go—especially leathered finishes.”

PATTERN BEHAVIOR “Hand-made ceramics with biophilic patterns in Mediterranean jewel tones add art elements,” says Sabatino. “Classic suit-fabric looks have translated to tile, and I love this fashion-forward movement. Texture and sheen are equally as important as color and pattern. A neutral tone with an interesting texture creates excitement.”

“Another focal point is the flooring—porcelain with a large pattern,” says Flynn. “I’m still seeing a lot of large patterns for tile and flooring layouts.”

HAS MATTE “Matte finishes are looking like the next big trend in luxury homes,” declares Morisseau. “We’ll see an uptick in matte finishes of all kinds, whether for counters, cabinet doors, paint finishes or hardware.”

Designer Credit: Svetlana Tryaskina, Estee Design.

“Matte metals, like satin gold, add a touch of glamour,” says Sabatino. “Matte gunmetal, off-black and bronze tones—previously only found in decorative hardware—are making their way into mainstream plumbing and lighting. Castings and 3D-printed metal shapes, PVD finish options, textures and mixed metals have made bathroom faucets pretty exciting. A careful mix of metals for door hardware, cabinetry hardware, lighting, plumbing or tile give a well-curated, sophisticated look. The space becomes truly artful when the elements are mixed but well-balanced.”


“Wood hoods are out now,” Salerno reports. I’m doing a lot of powder-coated metal hoods, often grays and blues—sometimes to match the appliances, like a La Cornue range.”

Designer Credit: Sandra Diaz-Velasco, EOLO A&I Design. 

“We’re doing layered combinations—stainless and textured coppers,” Morisseau adds, “and black matte finishes.” 


“Two types of backsplashes are popular: large format tile or mosaic/deco tile,” says Morisseau. “We’re beginning to see large-format porcelains for flooring, walls, and other surfaces becoming more popular for our luxury clients.”

Designer Credit: Peter Salerno, CMKBD, Peter Salerno Inc.

“Big slabs are great for backsplashes as well as countertops,” Salerno adds. “And no more rectangles behind the stove, that doesn’t look current anymore.”

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